A year ago, I wrote about the Reds offseason trade chips because Dick Williams said the front office might pursue pitching help for 2018. As we now know, the Reds didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t add any starters in the offseason, hoping instead for a return to health and form for Anthony Desclafani, Homer Bailey, and Brandon Finnegan. That shipped crashed into the harbor early in 2018, and the lifeboat named Harvey did little to save the wreckage.
After a year of struggles for the entire rotation, with the exception of some dominant stretches by Luis Castillo, the Reds find themselves in the same place as before: desperate for rotation stability. Only now, fansÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ patience is running thin as the rebuild continues to take on water.
Dick Williams has again stated that he will look to upgrade the rotation, and this time he seems more intent on doing so. The problem is finding those upgrades. The available free agents are aging and potentially expensive, risks that could come back to bite the Reds. The Reds will likely explore a deal with a free agent, and apparently have a bigger budget than past years to do so. But if they are to acquire a difference maker, it may very well come via trade.
Most teams are unwilling to give up cost-controlled starters who have had some success, unless other teams pay a premium. Last year, I noted that Michael Fulmer and Marcus Stroman might be potential targets, both under control for multiple years and fairly young. After some injuries in 2018, those two are now buy low candidates. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m struggling to find pitchers that make sense for the Reds right now, but I trust someone exists on the market that will fill the need to some extent.
In my 2017 post, I noted three deals as templates for acquiring a pitcher who had control, upside, and solid performance to date. The three deals were as follows:
Matt Garza Deal (Before 2011 Season)
- Matt Garza
- Fernando Perez
- Zac Rosscup
- Chris Archer (BA #27)
- Hak-Ju Lee (Baseball America #92)
- Sam Fuld
- Brandon Guyer (Cubs 10thÃ‚Â best prospect Ã¢â‚¬â€œ BA)
- Robinson Chirinos
Garza, 27 years old at the time, had three seasons of control left and had posted ERAs between 3.70 and 3.95 the previous three years. The other players the Cubs received werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t big prospects, but the Rays got two top 100 prospects and three of the Cubs top ten prospects. It was a pretty good haul that would foreshadow similar trades to come.
Mat Latos Deal (Before 2012 Season)
- Mat Latos
- Yonder Alonso (BA #33)
- Yasmani Grandal (BA #53)
- Brad Boxberger (BA Reds 10thÃ‚Â best prospect)
- Edinson Volquez
The Reds traded a ton to get Latos, who was 24 and coming off two excellent seasons. They saw him as a top of the rotation guy and thus paid a high price. Latos had four years of control left when the deal was completed.
Jose Quintana Deal (2017)
- Jose Quintana
White Sox get
- Eloy Jimenez (BA# 14)
- Dylan Cease (BA# 97)
- Mat Rose
- Bryant Flete
The Cubs traded their top two prospects to get the 28-year-old Quintana who had three and a half years left on his deal (two team option years). Right now, he has a career ERA of 3.56 with a SIERA of 3.88. From 2012-2016, Quintana had an ERA between 3.20 and 3.76 in the American League.
Those deals still apply to this scenario, but IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d like to add the biggest pitching trade to happen this season: Chris Archer going to the Pirates.
Chris Archer (2018)
- Chris Archer
- Austin Meadows (Fangraphs mid-season #37)
- Tyler Glasnow (Fangraphs 2017 #26, 3.59 SIERA in 2018)
- Shane Baz (Fangraphs mid-season #120)
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a huge haul for Chris Archer, and it could be an outlier. It may also represent a larger price for controllable pitching than weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve seen before. At least, teams typically need to give up multiple top prospects to receive young, established starter.
As we near the offseason, we can look at the Reds assets to see what a deal might look like.
Prospect Trade Chips
According to Doug Gray, the Reds top 10 prospects are as follows:
- Nick Senzel
- Hunter Greene
- Taylor Trammell
- Tony Santillan
- Jonathan India
- Tyler Stephenson
- Shed Long
- Jose Siri
- Jeter Downs
- Vladimir Gutierrez
The top three are on a tier of their own, elite prospects any organization would love to have. GreeneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s trade value has taken a hit with his UCL injury; if IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m another team, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bite that apple until I see how he recovers. Senzel and Trammell are drool-worthy players who look destined for Major League success.
India and Santillan represent another tier, prospects that either havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t had time to perform as a professional (India) or have performed well without much fanfare (Santillan). The combination may be enticing, but IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not sure one of them without a strong complimentary piece moves the needle for other teams. Prospects six through ten are likely secondary pieces.
Major League Trade Chips
The Reds have a number of interesting assets. A team willing to give up a good starter with some control is probably not a contending team, so while Raisel Iglesias may be attractive to a contender, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more likely to bring upside prospects than rotation stability in a trade. This list coversÃ‚Â only those players that other teams might consider primary pieces in a return for immediate upgrades to the Reds rotation. Also, trading Luis Castillo, who has put himself ahead of the rest of the young pitchers, would be counter-productive, so heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not on the list.
Eugenio Suarez Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Suarez remains the best trade piece the Reds have. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 27 and a 4-win player the last two seasons. Based on the value he provides, Geno has a team friendly contract, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard to imagine the Reds giving him up after signing him long term right before the 2018 year. His trade would open up a spot for Nick Senzel, but I just donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see it happening.
Scooter Gennett Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Gennett has been a force with the bat for two straight years, and this season, his defense rates as roughly average at 2B. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s probably an outlier, but Scooter has been excellent from the moment he put on a Reds uniform. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s signedÃ‚Â only through 2019, so another team would have to be convinced they could ink him to a long term if they were going to give up what the Reds need. Scooter will be 29 in 2019, so there are some aging concerns as well.
Tyler Mahle Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Tyler Mahle entered 2018 as a top 100 prospect and pitched really well for three months. After 18 starts, he had a 3.66 ERA and 4.30 SIERA. While his walk rate was a little high, he struck out plenty of batters (22.9%). Then, the league adjusted and Mahle seemed to hit a wall. Still, because of his early success and age (24 on Saturday), Mahle is an attractive piece to other teams. His secondary stuff needs work, but his fastball command kept him competitive for much of the year.
Jesse Winker Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Winker did what we expected him to do: make us cheer with the bat and make us cringe with the glove. Winker posted an excellent 128 wRC+ as a rookie and walked more than he struck out. He even showed solid power over his last two months before his season-ending injury. Unfortunately, Winker sometimes looked lost in the outfield and is likely a liability anywhere but leftfield. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s probably better than heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s shown so far, but the upside with the glove just isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t there. Other teams would love his bat, especially as he enters his age 25 season in 2019.
Secondary pieces at the Major League level include Michael Lorenzen, Scott Schebler, Amir Garrett, Cody Reed, Dilson Herrera, and Sal Romano. None of these guys does much as a headliner, but each would look good as the second or third piece in a deal.
The Reds are in a similar position as last year. They desperately need starting pitching talent and have some assets to get it done. If a good starter with some control is on the market, they should make a run at him.
I would start with a package that includes two of three out of Mahle, Santillan, and India. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d give up all three for a good, young starter. I would try hard to keep Senzel and Trammell, premium talents with fewer question marks than most prospects.
The Reds could always seek shorter-term options, like Zach Wheeler. But if they are looking beyond 2019, it will take some serious capital to obtain an effective pitcher, which will likely include some combination of their top five prospects and the four MLB assets I outlined. Whatever they decide to do, it’s clear that they need to improve a starting staff that held them back in 2018. Whether that’s through trade, free agency, or both will be interesting to see.